A math professor mentioned that the final segment of Fermat's name would probably have been pronounced [t] because of "where he was from." She didn't clarify further but I looked up where he's from and he was Gascon and a speaker of that language (sometimes considered a dialect of Occitan). Could someone confirm that this would have been the case in the Occitan of his day? I searched around and couldn't find anything attesting to this.

  • 3
    It looks like your professor is correct. Wiki mentions petit/pichòt [peˈtit]/[piˈtʃɔt] en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gascon_language
    – Alex B.
    Oct 9, 2018 at 19:46
  • 1
    It is hard to answer to this question because it is a proper name. As for the pronunciation of 't', in a general way, it does not seem that the Gascon pronounces systematically this sound at the end of words. There is also a lot of variation inside of Gascon. Look at this website, there are some spoken corpora on the Romance varieties of France: atlas.limsi.fr/index-en.html
    – amegnunsen
    Oct 9, 2018 at 21:17
  • Do you mean "how might he have pronounced it if he spoke the local dialect?", or "how did he himself actually pronounce it?". Recall that he was rather upper class.
    – user6726
    Oct 9, 2018 at 21:18
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    @user6726 either question. Was the pronunciation of the final /t/ stigmatized in his day?
    – ubadub
    Oct 9, 2018 at 21:20

1 Answer 1


Fermat was fluent in multiple languages, including French and Occitan. Though he was born and raised in Beaumont-de-Lomagne (Occitania), his paternal family was originally from Catalonia:

In the second half of the fifteenth century, the Fermat family apparently emigrated from Catalonia to Beaumont-de-Lomagne...

As such his name's authentic pronunciation was likely /ferˈmat/.

A contemporary prestige dialect French pronunciation would likely have been /fer'ma(t)/, since texts from the late 17th century imply that word terminal -t should only regularly be pronounced when occurring before a vowel.1

1. L'art de prononcer parfaitement la langue françoise, 1689 (p.349)

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